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Monday, May 3, 2021

Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless?

Douglas, K. M.
The Spanish Journal of Psychology
(2021). 24, e13, 1-7.


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the consequences of conspiracy theories and the COVID–19 pandemic raised this interest to another level. In this article, I will outline what we know about the consequences of conspiracy theories for individuals, groups, and society, arguing that they are certainly not harmless. In particular, research suggests that conspiracy theories are associated with political apathy, support for non-normative political action, climate denial, vaccine refusal, prejudice, crime, violence, disengagement in the workplace, and reluctance to adhere to COVID–19 recommendations. In this article, I will also discuss the challenges of dealing with the negative consequences of conspiracy theories, which present some opportunities for future research.


Conspiracy theories are associated with a range of negative consequences for political engagement, political behavior, climate engagement, trust in science, vaccine uptake, civic behavior, work-related behavior, inter-group relations, and more recently the COVID-19 response.  A significant challenge for researchers is to learn how to deal with conspiracy theories and their associated effects.